Sense of Place is Returning In Person!

Sense of Place is returning to live, in-person lectures. Join us on March 9th at 7 p.m. at the Columbia Center for the Arts to learn about Rajneeshees in Oregon with Les Zaitz. This event will have limited in-person ticket sales, but will also be live-streamed so viewers may watch virtually.


An extraordinary time in Oregon history occurred in central Oregon, when a religious sect from India set up an experiment on a cattle ranch outside Madras. In the 1980s, the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh presided over a sect that professed self-sufficiency and love that morphed into a tightly-controlled organization that engaged in assassination attempts and plots, orchestrated the largest illegal wiretapping operation in U.S. history, and poisoned hundreds of innocent diners as a way to suppress voter turnout. Les Zaitz was an investigative reporter at the time and he co-wrote a 20-part series about the Rajneeshees that was published in the Oregonian. More recently, he was included in the Netflix film Wild Wild Country, which looks at some of the history behind Rajneeshpuram in Oregon. Les is now the editor and CEO of the Salem Reporter, but continues to speak on the topic of the Rajneeshees and what lessons can be learned today from this long-ago event.


Les Zaitz is a two-time Pulitzer finalist who started his professional journalism career right out of high school. He was hired in 1973 as a general assignment reporter for the Salem Statesman Journal and continued writing as a staff reporter and correspondent while attending the University of Oregon, working for the Springfield News, the Oregon Journal, UPI, and the New York Times. He is a five-time solo winner of Oregon’s Bruce Baer Award, the state’s top honor for investigative reporting and in 2016, Zaitz was awarded the highest honor for career achievement from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. In 2018 he co-founded a digital news service based in Oreogn’s capitol, the Salem Reporter, where he is now CEO and editor. Born and raised in Oregon, Zaitz lives on a remote ranch in Grant County, where he and his wife, Scotta Callister, run a small horse/cow operation.


Join us in welcoming back Sense of Place to the Columbia Center for the Arts!


Event Details:

Sense of Place

When – Wednesday, March 9, doors 6:30PM, event 7PM

Where – Columbia Center for the Arts, Hood River Oregon (in-person) or livestream via YouTube

Cost – $10 suggested donation (in-person), livestream is free

*COVID-vaccination and masks required for in-person attendance


For more information, please go to or email

Dalton using Mini crane machine to clear brush and debris in the forest

What a Year!

What a year this has been so far! Throughout my internship, I have been exposed to so many new learning opportunities. My position had a slow start, but as my qualifications began stacking up, so did the availability of work I was able to do. Continue Reading…

Mt. Adams Institute Seeks a New Leader

Mt. Adams Institute (MAI) is recruiting a new executive director. Current leader, Brendan Norman, announced his resignation effective May 1, 2022. Norman, along with MAI’s founding board of directors, created the organization in 2011. Continue Reading…

Alumni Interview – Robyn Reeder

Congratulations to former Public Lands Stewards (PLS) Intern Robyn Reeder! She is the new Biotechnician at Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Our Outreach Coordinator Trevor was lucky enough to sit down and talk with Robyn about her new position and how PLS helped her achieve her goals. Continue Reading…

Group of people in a river raft going over rapids being sprayed with water

Am I Still on the River?

In honor of Great Outdoors Month, our AmeriCorps Program Director Aaron Stanton shared this thrilling story of his rescue on the river.

“In 2018 I had the good fortune to raft and kayak the Grand Canyon.  The trip did not end the way I would have liked, but it still changed me. Continue Reading…

Two people with chainsaws standing around a large tree that was cut down. Rings of the tree are visible

Mt. Adams Institute Receives $1.1 Million in AmeriCorps Funding

Mt. Adams Institute Receives AmeriCorps Grant to Continue Programs


Trout Lake, WA – Mt. Adams Institute has received a $1,119,904 grant from AmeriCorps the federal agency responsible for national service and community volunteerism.

This funding will support up to 95 AmeriCorps members across the country participating in Mt. Adams Institute’s career development programs: VetsWork Environment, VetsWork GreenCorps and Public Lands Stewards. These programs are designed to improve recreation, access, and conservation of our natural resources, while launching military veterans and young adults into careers within the public lands management field.

This AmeriCorps grant will allow us to build on a successful history of helping military veterans and young adults find meaningful careers with public lands agencies and other natural resource organizations,” said Brendan Norman, Executive Director of Mt. Adams Institute.

Mt. Adams Institute AmeriCorps members serve on conservation projects such as trail maintenance; visitor engagement, wildlife research, environmental education, geographic information mapping, invasive species monitoring, and community volunteer coordination.

This grant comes as a direct result of the success of the program. Since 2014, 81% of VetsWork participants who completed the program have been offered employment within the field. With this growth, Mt. Adams Institute looks forward to establishing new local partnerships and providing more opportunities for veterans and young adults to experience the outdoors while shaping their career path.

AmeriCorps will provide an additional $470,000 in Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards for the AmeriCorps members funded by this grant. After completing a full term of service, AmeriCorps members receive an award of approximately $6,300 that they can use to pay for college or to pay off student loans.

For the past year, thousands of AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Seniors members across all 50 states and U.S. territories have continued their service, quickly adapting to meet the changing needs caused by the pandemic. Dedicated members have persisted to support communities as they respond and recover from the impact of COVID-19, developing new ways to deliver the same services to keep both themselves and those they serve safe.

The recently passed American Rescue Plan includes an additional $1 billion for AmeriCorps. The agency will use this investment to expand national service programs into new communities and increase the opportunity for all Americans to serve their country.

Every year, 75,000 AmeriCorps members serve through thousands of nonprofit, community and faith-based organizations across the country. These citizens have played a critical role in the recovery of communities affected by disasters and helped thousands of first-generation college students access higher education. They also tutor and mentor young people, connect veterans to jobs, care for seniors, reduce crime and revive cities, fight the opioid epidemic, and meet other critical needs.

As the federal agency for volunteering and service, AmeriCorps brings people together to tackle the county’s most pressing challenges. Since the agency’s inception in 1994, nearly 1.2 million AmeriCorps members have served the nation.

Mt. Adams Institute matches the grant funding with additional support from project partners, including but not limited to the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Columbia River Gorge National Fish Hatchery Complex, King Conservation District, Oregon State Parks, Willamette Resources and Education Network, and Willamette Riverkeeper.

Locally, VetsWork and Public Lands Stewards AmeriCorps members have provided over 42,000 hours of service at local Gorge sites over the past five years including the Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Columbia River Gorge National Fish Hatchery Complex, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, and the Gifford Pinchot and Mt. Hood National Forests.

Mt. Adams Institute is a nonprofit organization with a mission to strengthen the connection between people and the natural world through education, service learning, career development and research. More information about the organization can be found at:

AmeriCorps is a federal agency that engages millions of Americans in national service programs. For more information, visit .

VetsWork: A Mission to Inspire


There have been many times that I’ve faced landscapes which felt utterly surreal even before my own eyes, but my first trip to Mount St. Helens might be the most surreal landscape thus far.

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As photographed as this location is, I fear that not a single picture can accurately describe the feeling of its imposing presence as you stand before it. Not only the mountain, but the severely scarred landscape around it just tells a gripping story of regrowth that you can literally witness with the passage of time. It’s this sense of awe and fascination with the natural world which I seek and try to provide to others. It’s what I hope to provide to those who may be reading this who may not already have this appreciation.

That being said, I’ve taken up two projects that I’m looking forward to. The first, and quickly approaching, is to teach a group of about thirty 6 – 12 year olds the value of forest ethics. Not only will I be teaching them in basic Leave No Trace (LNT) fundamentals, but also the proper method to put out fire. And considering the age range, there will be fun and games to go along with instruction! I’m hoping it’s not only fulfilling for me, but at least one of them learns something they won’t forget.

The second project should be happening in October at the Vancouver Community Library. I’ll be hosting a book reading of sorts where the goal is to inspire awe and wonder of the natural world in those in attendance. There are many things in nature which are amazing, but we generally take for granted as they seem like an everyday occurrence to us, such as a rainbow.

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My hope is to enhance the scientific literacy of young people (adults too if they come) and to encourage a desire to learn about the natural world so they, too, can experience the magic of reality.

In the meantime, I’ll be trying to get outside more. If you know me and want some forest fresh air, just let me know!

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VetsWork: Mid-year reflection on the Mark Twain National Forest


As we break for the 4th of July holiday, “It’s all downhill from here…” my supervisor mentions. The summer solstice has passed and I too have reached the midpoint of my internship with the Forest Service via the Mt Adams Institute VetsWork program. So far I have explored a plethora of places I have never been before and have made some new friends along the way. Not to mention getting some awesome training with some chainsaws.

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Up ahead, I still have big plans for the White Oak Trail and the Woodchuck Trail which have become the focus of most of my attention outside of my regular duties. I plan on getting some heavy equipment certifications, as well; which I am pretty excited about. Some days, as I ponder over the historical natural areas and their beauty, it’s easy to forget this is work. But, the job we accomplish each day leaves our parks and recreation areas more beautiful than before and it’s something to be proud of.

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VetsWork: “Canoeing Coldwater Lake in search of Eurasian Milfoil”


On a 93 degree day, nobody wants to do trail work or any type of hard labor outside. It seems on the 29th and 30th of June I lucked out and landed an opportunity that provided a cool environment and a lot of sunshine. Eurasian Milfoil. Yes, an aquatic invasive plant species was the reason I spent two entire days canoeing and trenching through Coldwater Lake, getting badly sunburned and shivering until my lips turned blue. Not to mention, our crew for the project was so cool, I can say this is an experience that I will not forget.

Monday the 29th started with a 2 hour drive to the lake. I was pretty excited for this project, not just because it was 93 degrees and I was dying to get out on the lake; but it was a different type of opportunity that I haven’t experienced yet. It was a chance to learn about species inside of a lake that was formed from the result of a volcanic blast. Although we focused heavily on Eurasian Milfoil, I was with a fish biologist and a group with plenty of experience identifying aquatic plants.

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The first day was a recon day where I met with a couple of plant experts from Skamania County who provided me with a lesson in Milfoil and the various other plants growing at 20ft depths in the lake. We paddled along the West, South and North shore of Coldwater Lake plotting points of plant species by dragging a rake connected to a rope and looking through a tube with a clear lens on the end. Low tech devices, but highly effective. We were able to compare our results from a survey in 1998 and realize that the Milfoil levels have mysteriously gone down. Although I did not get my hands on these notes, we were briefed that it was a dramatic decrease in Milfoil in comparison to our findings. We were only able to find Eurasian Milfoil in and around the stream on the west end of the lake.

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The following day we set up two 30ft nets at a marked point in the stream to create one giant net. This is where we broke into our job duties that included 3 forest service master divers, 3 people with hand nets collecting fragments of milfoil in the water and another three assisting the divers by collecting the milfoil that the divers pulled and placing them into mesh bags. By now, I imagine you are wondering why I haven’t completely described the problem with Eurasian Milfoil yet. Eurasian Milfoil is an aquatic invasive species native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. It reproduces from small leaf fragments floating in the water and fragments very easily. It also destroys other plant life by pulling oxygen from the water and blocking sunlight. There are plenty of other details of this species, I just want you as my reader to understand that it’s invasive and a problem. It can also be spread by boats, boat trailers and water fowl.

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My first duty was to follow one of our divers with a mesh net. He snorkeled through waist high water in the stream, pulling the milfoil by the roots where I followed up by placing the chunks of milfoil into a mesh bag. This went on for about an hour until the water reached up to my neck, where our diver traded out his snorkel for a couple of diving tanks. There wasn’t a whole lot of me moving around in this neck deep water and this lasted for about another hour. My movements were about 6 inch steps every 45 seconds. I eventually started shivering and I was told my lips turned blue. As you can imagine I was also told to get out of the water. I was a little bummed over that, but was relieved to go post up in the sunshine for a while. From there, my duty was to help out by netting fragments of milfoil in the water and also empty out mesh bags for our people that were assisting the divers.

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Being out in the sun definitely had its perks; it helped me have a speedy recovery from getting cold in the water and it also felt so good considering I haven’t sat out in the sun like that since last summer. Then, I was told to get out of the water again. Apparently (which now I can really feel), my back was annihilated by the sun. I had already put on a huge amount of SPF 40 sunblock before coming out, but clearly my skin is not accustomed to that much sunlight. I was then told to hold out my arms and got sprayed with massive amounts of SPF 70. It actually smelled pretty good, but I’m not sure how long it lasted considering I went directly back into the water.

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We finished up at about 4:30pm. By the looks of things, our manual pulling efforts have cleared Coldwater Lake of its Eurasian Milfoil problem. We then gathered up all supplies, took some soil samples to examine the volume of the soil that the milfoil was growing in and debriefed. We talked about methods that we found useful for pulling the weeds and also discussed how effective we thought our efforts were. Unfortunately in most cases a manual pull is not very effective for eradicating milfoil, but our observations of the milfoil not acting as invasively as it normally does is keeping our hopes up. It sounds like we may go back in August and see if the problem continues. I guess we can only keep our fingers crossed.

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VetsWork: Mt. Hood’s Beautiful East-side

With our incredibly sunny/warm Spring season it seemed impossible not to notice all the awesome flowering going on everywhere!  For the months of May and June (some of July) I’ve been and will be spending my time out on the Hood River and Barlow Districts of Mt. Hood.



Much of the initial work I was doing out here consisted of capturing all the campgrounds (condition surveys) which entailed traveling, essentially, the entire east side of Mt. Hood.  The meadows out here are intense. I’m very much in love with the east side!


The folks out here are warm/welcoming and have afforded me opportunities for which I’m very grateful.  I’ve worked a little bit with the east-side archaeologist and have some more survey work coming in July. This has been a special treat for me as it connects another avenue from my past to present that I’ve long since visited.


Enjoy Vetswork!  Nature is good!


VetsWork: Wilderness Areas – Not Always Sunshine and Rainbows


This past month has been really exciting getting to work in Wilderness areas. As an inspiring Wilderness Technician this hands on experience is making me appreciate them more and more. I love the whole wilderness character aspect of them and that it’s a place to get away from all the BS that life throws at you. They’re a place to get some solitude and gain that primitive feeling I enjoy. In the month of May I have been cleaning up the trail on both Rock Pile and Bell Mountain Wilderness with the help of 9 AmeriCorps crew members out of Denver. It feels good getting back into the leadership role and is great experience leading a trail crew working with crosscut saws and various other trail tools. Its hard work and I love it, getting dirty everyday going home feeling like I made a difference. I tell my crew that this job isn’t always sunshine and rainbows so don’t be afraid to get down and dirty. Below is picture taken at Bell Mountain Wilderness which covers 9,027 acres and is part of the St. Francois Mountains.

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Here’s a picture of the crew heading into Rock Pile Wilderness to get some work done. In May, we brushed and logged out a 4 mile trail in the Rock Pile Wilderness, a wilderness area covering 4,131 acres. The crewmembers are between the ages of 18-24 both male and female and from all over the U.S. Their duty station is out of Denver, Colorado where they’ll report back to once their gig is up here in mid-July.

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I have also gained my red card certification and am now a Firefighter Type 2 so I am really hoping to get out west this summer and get a fire under my belt. That would be a great experience and good way to get on with the U.S. Forest Service at the end of my VetsWork internship.

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